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Pair of east El Paso bars obtain restaurant licenses to stay open

EL PASO, Texas -- Under Texas Gov. Greg Abott's Covid-19 executive order, no bars in the state of Texas are allowed be operating at this time. The outbreak of the coronavirus in the Lone Star State led him to reverse his re-opening plans.

Any establishment that makes more than 51% of their revenues from the sale of liquor and alcohol is deemed a bar and must be shutdown. While bars remain closed, some local owners have gotten creative in the way they operate in order to re-open their doors.

“We opened up last Monday at about six p.m. We are operating at 50% capacity which is about 50 people at each spot. We are not doing groups bigger than six and we are social distancing, so we’re following the rules,” said Justin Kaufman owns two east El Paso establishments that formerly were bars.

He has obtained his licenses to operate El Paso Drafthouse and Rey Muerto as restaurants, allowing him to reopen his doors to 50% capacity.

“I walked into Applebees and I just thought to myself it was no different than Applebees, we have a kitchen as big as we do. Of course I want to abide by the rules and I want to do what’s right, we just thought that we could go about it the same way -- apply for the appropriate licensing and then open up by the rules,” Kaufman said.

The entrepreneur is not the only one in the city to do so, however not every bar will be able to. In order to obtain a restaurant license, a former bar must have a full working kitchen, and provide a full menu to prove that the bulk of their sales will be coming from food - and not alcohol.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the City of El Paso confirmed that Kaufman has been approved for restaurant licenses at both spots and therefore can continue to operate.

In the meantime, concerned residents have continued to report the east El Paso establishments because many of them did not know the licenses were changed. Kaufman told ABC-7 he's also been inspected several times by the task force run by the city.

“They’re very cordial they are coming in and doing their job and I understand completely. I haven’t gotten no tickets, no fine. Obviously they see that I am complying by the rules,” Kaufman said.

Coronavirus Video / El Paso / News / Top Stories / Video

JC Navarrete

El Paso native JC Navarrete co-anchors ABC-7’s weekend newscasts and reports during the week.

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